VOORHEES, N.J. — Johnny Gaudreau is coming to the Wells Fargo Center.
No, he did not get traded to the Flyers. He is playing them Saturday.
Moderate buzz has circulated on the beloved interwebs regarding the possibility of Gaudreau being dealt by the Flames. Rewind to 2018-19, the mere thought would have been chastised and deemed ludicrous.
However, Calgary is severely underperforming during 2019-20 after going 50-25-7 with 107 points last season, second best in the NHL to only the Lightning. The Flames are 10-12-3 and have lost six straight, a stretch in which they’ve scored 0.83 goals per game, while allowing 3.83.
When a team isn’t in the vicinity of its high expectations, bold ideas come to mind and serious questions are asked.
Kevin Hayes, who said Gaudreau is one of his best friends after the two played together at Boston College, understands this is a part of the NHL in today’s world.
“We haven’t talked about the trade [rumors] at all,” Hayes said Friday after practice. “He’s one of the best players in the league. I’m sure if they were winning every game, there would be no trade talk at all.”
Flyers fans, undoubtedly, know well of “Johnny Hockey.” Gaudreau is from South Jersey and played at Gloucester Catholic High School. The electric 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger has blown up on the NHL stage, becoming a five-time All-Star by the age of 26. He scored a career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) last season.
Naturally, the local hockey fans will always hold out hope for Gaudreau coming home. The key word is hope. Right now, it is purely hopeful and for many reasons.
Think about the package the Flyers would have to send to the Flames. We’re talking about young, already established NHLers, top prospects and high draft picks.
The Flyers are in Year 1 under general manager Chuck Fletcher and head coach Alain Vigneault. A GM is never quick to give up on his plan or tamper with it to a great degree so early in a season, especially for one player. Fletcher and Vigneault like the club’s current state as they mold the Flyers into their own. The team’s younger cornerstones are starting to blossom, prospects are making an impact and they’re all surrounded by an experienced core.
Whether some see it or not, there’s a lot to like.
Simply put, the Flyers are not in trade mode. Thanksgiving has yet to arrive and the Flyers are better than they were last year, having shown progress but with room for further growth.
Can things change when the Feb. 24 trade deadline is closer? Absolutely, and that brings us to a guy like Morgan Frost. The playmaking center, along with fellow prospects like winger Joel Farabee and defenseman Philippe Myers, could have a loud say in what Fletcher and the Flyers aim to do when the trade market actually heats up. What might the Flyers need then?
Frost, a 2017 first-round pick with a bright future, has opened his NHL career by making a bang, scoring two goals and three points in two games. It has been only two games and Frost is only 20 years old. His ceiling, though, is excitingly high.
Farabee, a 2018 first-round pick, rapidly climbed to the Flyers and has shown flashes in 16 games. He’s a point-producing winger that can play all over the lineup. Finding consistency through the NHL grind at just 19 years old will be his challenge.
Myers, a 6-foot-5 blueliner with offensive skills, didn’t crack the Flyers’ season-opening roster but made his way back and has shown why in 10 games. The Flyers want to see the 22-year-old be sound and smart as best he can on a game-to-game basis.
“I’ve said this many times, talent has no age,” Vigneault said Friday. “I’m looking to have the best possible team that is going to give us the best possible chance to win. I don’t care if you’re 43 or you’re 18, whoever is ready to play and whoever is going to help us win.”
Gaudreau probably isn’t a thought right now because the Flyers believe in their kids and the process overall. Saturday is Game 23 for the Flyers. They’ll play the Flames. Gaudreau will come and go.
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